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The sky is falling! A heads up on how to spot fake news and what to do about it

Written by Staff Writer

November 2, 2020

There is a children’s story about a chicken which ran around spreading fake news to all his friends that “the sky was falling”.

 Now in this time of global concern, when most people get their news off the Internet, we have a major issue regarding Corona.  There are other kinds of chickens out there deliberately creating false news. The million-dollar question is – how do you know what is true and what is fake? 

Africa Check advises that people should maintain an open-minded scepticism, instead of cynicism. Whether you are a judge or a journalist, a businessperson or a health worker, it is best to question – not dismiss – a claim until there is reliable, verifiable evidence to back it up.

Questions to ask

Before sharing any information, it is important to ask questions that might help make sense of the information before referring it to the next person: 

  • How was the information I am about to share assembled?
  •  When was it published and by whom?

To avoid making the bad situation worse we share three important tips by Africa Check:

  1. Pause, particularly if the post, tweet or message makes you scared or angry.
  2. Consider the source, when someone shares or tell you about something ask, “How do you know that” The answer can help you work out if they have first-hand knowledge of the information.
  3. Try to find a trusted source


Do not partake in spreading the information unless you are sure it is correct. Remember that just because something is on a website or social media does not mean it is true.

And if you come across fake news? What do you do?

 In March 2020 the government issued a Government Gazette with a new regulation stating that fake news/ disinformation about COVID-19 is now a criminal offence in South Africa.

This means a fine or imprisonment for those who ignore the law aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

How do you report it?

If you receive information that you suspect to be fake news, report it to fakenewsalert@dtps.gov.za or WhatsApp 067 966 4015.

Make sure you include a link or screenshot of the social media post, article or document.

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